LeBron James and Stephen Curry headline USA Basketball’s 30-strong list of candidates for their country’s men’s squad at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The American team will aim for a third straight Olympic success, having successfully defended the title they claimed at Beijing 2008 when they defeated Spain 107-100 in the gold medal match at London 2012.
James, a small forward with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a key player in both of the triumphs, is on course to pursue his fourth Olympic medal, with the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player (MVP) having also won bronze at Athens 2004.
He is joined in the preliminary selection by point guard Curry, the reigning NBA MVP, as well as fellow three-time Olympian Carmelo Anthony, a small forward with the New York Knicks.
Curry’s team-mates at the Golden State Warriors NBA team, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala, are also among the selection.
With the 30-man list containing 10 of the 12 players who were part of the victorious US team at the 2014 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup, where they were undefeated, competition for places will be fierce.
The squad will be trimmed down to a final 12 for Rio.
“This selection process was difficult from the start, and obviously it is only going to get more difficult as we look to get to the official, 12-man roster,” said the US head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will lead the team into a third straight Olympics.
“I’m excited about the possibilities this team has, among the finalists we have multiple players who won gold medals at the Olympic or World Cup level.
“The roster of finalists features incredible talent, great balance, outstanding leadership, and I believe like we had with our previous teams, this team will have a special chemistry.”
Krzyzewski will step down from his role following Rio 2016 and will be replaced by San Antonio Spurs boss Gregg Popovich.
While the Games look set to be Krzyzewski’s last in charge, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has drawn a line under his Olympic career with the two-time champion opting to withdraw from consideration for the American team.
The 37-year-old, due to retire at the end of the current NBA season, claimed that younger players have earned a chance to represent the country and believes they will be strong enough to triumph again.
The shooting guard had hinted that he would like to use Rio as his career swansong.
“Since my retirement announcement, I’m able to watch these guys in a different light,” said Bryant.
“I’ve come to terms with the fact that they are the future of this game, these are the guys who deserve the spots in Rio.
“These are the guys who people need to watch and root for, these are the guys to show fans where this game is going in the future.”
- By Michael Pavitt, this article was republished with permission from the original publisher Inside the Games www.insidethegames.biz